Much to the chagrin of Jim Boeheim and his eating habits, the ACC Tournament returns home to Greensboro, North Carolina for what could be the most wide-open bracket in the conference's history.
While the ACC has been down this year by all accounts it is still a conference looking at 4-6 NCAA Tournament bids and has 6-8 teams capable of cutting down the nets in Greensboro.
Here are my 4 favorites to take home the ACC Title:
Without a horrible non-call at the end of regulation at Virginia that, in all likelihood, cost them the game, Duke would have been in a position to win the regular season conference title. As it stands though, Duke has a pretty favorable draw with the way the brackets fell as they would avoid both Virginia and potentially UNC until the finals.
Although the Blue Devils aren't the number-one seed they have been playing better basketball than anyone in the ACC over the last month and a half. Jeremy Roach has become the go-to scorer this team was lacking since his return from a foot injury and the Freshman class around him has continued to improve as the season has gone on, most notably Dereck Lively who has been dominant on the defensive end as of late. If Dariq Whitehead can return to the form that made him the number one player coming out of high school the Blue Devils are not only a team to watch in the ACCT but potentially the NCAAT as well.
The Canes come to the ACC Tournament as the top seed for the first time ever and enter the tournament on a hot streak having won 8 of their final 9 games. Miami has been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country this season ranking 13th in Adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom but rank just 123rd in Adjusted defensive efficiency. Because of their struggles on the defensive end, a potential semi-final matchup with Duke isn't the most favorable but the Canes' ability to share the scoring load between Wong, Pack, Miller, and even Omier gives them the chance to beat literally any team in the country when they are hitting shots.
Despite going just 2-2 over their last 4 games and struggling all the way back to the beginning of February, the Cavaliers still managed to capture a share of the regular season conference title. While Tony Bennett and company have been good on defense (34th in KenPom) it isn't the typical dominance we are used to seeing and after an extremely hot start to the year offensively the Cavs have fallen to just 74th in offensive efficiency while playing one of the slowest tempos in the nation (360th).
Kihei Clarke, Armaan Franklin, and Reece Beekman give the Cavs one of the most experienced backcourts not only in the ACC but throughout the entire country which typically translates to success in March but the Cavaliers' lack of depth means they will be relied on heavily. Their bench played just 28.7% of the minutes this season, ranking 287th in the nation, in an environment where they are looking at playing three games in three days fatigue could certainly play a factor, particularly if they are able to advance deep into the tourney.
It may be surprising to see UNC listed among the favorites but the fact of the matter this is still a team that most of us had ranked as the pre-season number one team. With the desperation (hopefully) finally setting in you would think that if this team was ever going to get hot, it would be now. Armando Bacot is still a double-double machine, Caleb Love is still capable of being an elite scorer, RJ Davis is one of the quickest guards in the country and Pete Nance was maybe the most sought-after transfer in the portal so the talent is there. The question is, as it has been all year, can Carolina lock in when it counts?
One of the main issues facing Carolina is something I talked about with Virginia, depth. Hubert Davis went to his bench for just 18.7% of the total minutes played this season, 358th in the nation. With such a heavy reliance on the starters playing 30+ minutes per game even if Carolina is able to go on a run, will they have enough gas left in the tank to finish the job in the final?
Tyree Appleby may not take home the ACC player of the year award because of Wake's 9th-place finish in the regular season, but make no mistake there isn't a better player in the conference. Oh yeah and his backcourt mate Daivien Williamson is a three-year starter too. Not to mention Damari Monsanto who has been one of the best 3pt shooters in the country, shooting 40.7% on a whopping 215 attempts this season. Having lost 4 out of their final 5 games to finish the season the Deacons find their at-large hopes dashed, but if Appleby can put together a couple of big performances the Demon Deacons are dangerous.
While I don't necessarily believe the Eagles are capable of winning 5 games in 5 days in Greensboro, I do think they could play spoiler against UNC in Round 2 and UVA in the quarter-finals. Quinten Post is another guy who would probably be mentioned amongst ACC Player of the Year contenders if not for an injury that cost him basically the entire non-conference slate and if Boston College had more success this season. Post was one of the most versatile big men in the country this season, averaging 15.4 points a game, while shooting 40+% from three and nearly a block per game.